Tuesday 7 August 2012

Non-Biodegradable Supermarket Carrier Bags Banned in Italy

Senatore Francesco Ferrante XIII, of the Esecutivo Nazionale Associazione Ecologisti Democratici (Italy) was instrumental in getting non-biodgradable shopping bags banned in Italy and explained the political background.
·         The ban was in an amendment to the 2007 budget legislation passed in December 2006.
·         This amendment called for a national programme to reduce the use of shopping bags which are not biodegradable according to EU Directives.
·         While in 2006 most Italian centre-right politicians were against environmentally friendly politics, the fact that Novamont’s “Mater-Bi” was available to substitute for polyethylene helped convince the government to support the proposal.

·         However Center-Right won the 2008 election and approved postponement of the ban until Jan 2011.
·         Chemical industry lobbies continued to ask for further delays, but the majority of the Italian population favoured the ban and it came into force on Jan 1 2011.
·         PE bags almost disappeared within 2 months, and in 2011 200 million biodegradable plastic bags were sold along with a million cotton and jute reusable bags.
·         Oxo-degradable polyethylene bags were also introduced, and these confused the market because they were incorrectly labelled “biodegradable” despite being uncompostable.
·         This “dirty trick” slowed down the introduction of the true biodegradables, so the law was amended in March 2011 to exclude any plastics which failed EN 13432 testing.
·         A July 2011 poll showed 93% of Italians were aware of the ban, and 83% agree with it.
·         Novamont and ENI are now investing €400 million to restructure a Sardinian chemical plant to produce Mater-Bi. (see later)
·         Cereplast is building a new bioplastic plant in Perugia to make 100,000 tonnes/year.
·         DSM and Roquette will build another near Turin to make 10,000 tonnes of succinic acid from renewable.
In response to questions, Sen. Ferrante said he thought the recent delay (to Dec 2013) on instituting fines for industries continuing to produce polyethylene shopping bags was a mistake.  The ban had been a great success and he hoped Parliaments in other EU countries would follow Italy’s lead.  Asked whether he thought banning non-biodegradables was better than taxing them highly, he said a balance was needed.  The most polluting products should be banned and the “2nd Division” should be taxed.

(from a paper given at the Biopolymer World Conference, Venice, April 2012)

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